Since 2009, actual charter school enrollment in Memphis has been below what the schools had projected before school started.
Those overly optimistic projections on the part of a few charter schools, and unpaid fees for utilities, rent, retirement, and other services on the part of a dozen more, mean Shelby County Schools is now owed more than $1.6 million by charter school operators.
Shelby County superintendent Dorsey Hopson II informed the district’s board during a work session last week that the district plans to ask the state for permission to collect that money back from charter schools in the city.
The W.E.B. Dubois Charter Consortium, run by former Memphis superintendent and mayor Willie Herenton, and City University, run by the Influence I Foundation, received money for hundreds of students who did not attend their schools. The two organizations owe the district a combined $867,000 due to the enrollment variance.
Last year, projected enrollment in charters in the district was 10,919, while only 8,769 students attended the publicly-funded, independently-run schools. In each of the previous three years, charter schools had overestimated on average by between 650 and 700 students.
The City Boys Prep, City University Girls Prep, Freedom Preparatory, Grizzlies Prep, KIPP Memphis Collegiate Middle, MAHS Middle, MASE, the Memphis School of Excellence, Power Center Middle, Promise Academy, and Veritas charter schools also owe the district money, either for insurance, retirement, rent, or utilities.
The district plans to deduct a ninth of the fee owed to the district from each charter school in coming months in 2014.
According to the Commercial Appeal, Shelby County Schools has reached an agreement with former mayor Herenton’s schools to address the overprojected enrollment for last year, which includes a school for juvenile offenders at Northside High that closed midyear.
Approximately $78 million will be spent on charter schools this year to educate an estimated 11,824 students, according to projections. The district has approximately 111,000 students overall.
In addition to the $1.6 owed by district-sponsored charters, the state-run Achievement School District owes the school district approximately $703,000, for services including special education, alternative education, insurance, and transportation.
At last week’s board meeting, commissioner Chris Caldwell said there was an incentive for charter schools to inflate enrollment projections. Charter schools receive funding from the district for each child they’re projected to enroll. “I don’t think it’s unfair to make sure they make more accurate projections,” he said.
Board chair Kevin Woods said the district was considering creating a “compact” with its charter schools, which would encourage them to collaborate more with the district.
View the complete list of which schools owe the district money here.